[MGSA-L] My big fat Greek driving permit
june.samaras at gmail.com
Wed Feb 9 19:32:17 PST 2011
My big fat Greek driving permit
by Kathy Tzilivakis
31 Jan 2011
BEFORE getting behind the wheel, first-time drivers must sign up for
the country’s mandatory lessons. By law, they’re required to take at
least 21 hours of theory and another 20 hours of practical driving
Driving schools charge between 750 and 1,000 euros for the lessons and
the test fees.
The only way you can bypass the driving test is if you already hold a
valid driving licence from another EU member state or Canada,
Australia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea or the United States. If
this is the case, you can convert the foreign permit into a Greek one.
Once you have completed the required lessons, you need to go to your
nearest local transport ministry office to submit a driving test
application. This is something your driving instructor may do for you.
A statutory declaration stating your name and address must also be
submitted. Greek citizens must present their ID card. Foreigners must
show their residence permit or certificate. The permits must have been
issued at least 185 days before the driving test applications are
submitted by a non-EU national and 95 days if the holder is an EU
Applicants also need to pay two fees, totalling 90 euros, at the
National Bank of Greece, and produce those receipts. You also need two
receipts issued by the tax office - one for 6 euros and the other for
All applications must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by
a doctor and a certificate that an optometrist has tested your
eyesight. Both examinations are straightforward. Most doctors simply
ask applicants if they have any serious illness.
The applicant also needs two passport-size photographs.
The theory test
Once you’ve submitted your application, you have to sign up for the
computerised theory test. The test can be taken in Greek, English,
Russian or Albanian. Candidates are required to answer 30 questions,
making no more than one mistake.
If you fail the written test you will have to take six more theory
lessons. If you fail a second time, you are required to take another
The driving test
There are usually two examiners. The driving instructor’s vehicle is
used for the test. The instructor sits in the passenger seat and the
two instructors in the back. They evaluate the candidate’s knowledge
about what is under the vehicle’s bonnet (engine etc, as well as how
well they parallel-park, reverse on a turn, brake suddenly, change
gears at the top of a hill and make a three-point turn).
The test usually lasts about 10 minutes.
Those who pass the test will be issued a licence that expires on their
65th birthday. The licence can be renewed almost automatically. The
holder simply has to pass a health examination and an eye test.
Should you fail the driving test, you will have to take 10 more
practical lessons before retaking the test.
The new permit
A single, credit card-sized EU-wide driving licence replaced the old
pink paper booklet permits in 2009.
Those who pass the test must display a visible red ‘N’ sign in the
back window of their car. This is to notify other drivers and the
police that they are a new driver. This applies for the first six
months after the completion of the test.
Though very few driving examiners in Greece have been indicted on
bribery charges, the system is one of the country’s most corrupt.
The Athens News has spoken to dozens of driving test candidates about
the matter. The story is always the same, whether you are in Athens or
on an island.
You sign up for lessons and just before the driving exam, your
instructor advises you to pay an extra 50 to 150 euros in a bribe for
the examiner. If you don’t, the examiner will fail you.
As no money physically changes hands - it’s simply placed in the
vehicle’s glove compartment - it is difficult to prosecute.
Surviving Greek driving
BUMPER-TO-BUMPER traffic jams, illegal U-turns and double parking are
the main features of driving in Greece. Mad speeds are another. Athens
is also the home of slalom driving thanks to the
Here are some (humorous) tips
* Never take a green light for granted. Always look left and
right before proceeding (red lights get run frequently)
* Remember, most Greeks see the yellow traffic light not as a
signal to slow down, but as a warning to put the pedal to the metal
and fly through the intersection before the light turns red
* When in a one-way street, keep to the right to allow for cars
and motorbikes coming from the opposite direction
* Never stop for a pedestrian because you could cause a multi-car pileup
* Try not to use directional signals because Greek drivers are
not used to them and it may cause confusion
* Speed limits are arbitrary
* Use your hazard lights to signal your intention to park
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